With kids back in school, offering flexible work arrangements, such as telecommuting or alternative work hours, is an easy and inexpensive way to help your employees juggle work and personal responsibilities. But offering these extras exclusively to your working parents can leave their childless colleagues feeling left out and resentful.
“Flexible work schedules shouldn’t be determined by whether or not an employee has children,” says Lynne Klein, human resources advisor at Insperity. “It should be business-based.”
In other words, whether your employee needs to leave early to take his kid to soccer practice or take his dog to the vet, the decision to allow employees flextime shouldn’t be based on why they need it, but how it’ll impact the business.
Here are some ways to make sure your flexible work arrangement policies are fair for all.
It’s not just for moms and dads
Just because employees don’t have kids doesn’t mean they don’t have responsibilities outside of work. From caring for elderly family members to continuing their education, even employees without kids juggle busy schedules. Allowing them to come in late or leave early can be a big help.
“If it’s a perk, it should be a perk for everyone, as long as it doesn’t negatively affect the business,” says Klein.
If you decide to offer flexible work schedules, be sure your decision is based on what’s best for the employee and the company, not your personal beliefs.
It may not make sense for every position
Flextime and telecommuting privileges may need to vary depending on the department or position, says Klein. For example, your front desk receptionist may not be able to work from home given the nature of your business, and not having someone man the front desk could be bad for business.
Just be sure to properly communicate your policies to employees and document it in the employee handbook and job description.
If certain employees aren’t eligible for these privileges, consider offering alternatives. Ask these employees to come up with some ideas so that they don’t feel left out, says Klein.
For example, going back to the receptionist mentioned earlier, you might allow him or her to leave an hour early on Fridays, if it won’t be too much of a business interruption.
Be mindful of the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits discrimination against Americans with disabilities and requires employers to make “reasonable accommodations” for workers who qualify. According to the ADA, reasonable accommodations encompass adjusting a job or the work environment so a qualified applicant or employee with a disability can fulfill the position.
So, when your employees are requesting alternative schedules, be sure you understand the reasoning before you make a decision. If an employee requests to leave early or come in late in order to attend a physical therapy or doctor’s appointment, it might be considered a reasonable accommodation and you must allow it.
It’s a benefit, not a requirement
It’s important for employees to realize that flextime and working remotely is a perk. And unless their reasoning falls under ADA, state or federal laws, you’re not obligated to provide them the privileges.
So, if an employee isn’t meeting expectations or is having performance issues, you might want to think twice before allowing them to continuously take advantage of your flextime policies. Other staff members will likely be angry if they have to pick up the slack for poor performers, which can put a serious damper on office morale.
If flextime or telecommuting starts to affect employees’ performance or productivity, make sure you address it right away. Holding routine performance review meetings can help you stay in touch with your employees and ensure they’re able to balance their work and personal responsibilities.
More and more businesses these days are offering flexible work arrangements to help attract and retain more qualified staff. But if your policies are unfair, this strategy can quickly backfire. So, before you allow employees to rearrange their schedules, be sure your policy is unbiased, clear, documented and communicated to everyone.